DETROIT – The Giants started down the path to defeat midway through the first quarter in Ford Field on Sunday and Saquon Barkley said it's a step that could and should have been avoided. And he blamed himself.
Janoris Jenkins' interception of a Matthew Stafford pass on the game's first series had delivered them the ball, and Barkley's two seven-yard runs had given them a first down and additional momentum. But on the next play, a first down from the Giants' 29-yard line, Daniel Jones was sacked for a 10-yard loss by linebacker Jarrad Davis. Jones tried to pass the ball to Barkley, but it traveled backward, technically making it a fumble. Barkley seemed to hesitate as former Giant Devon Kennard scooped up the ball and raced 13 yards for a touchdown. Buoyed by a lead they would never relinquish, the Lions progressed to a 31-26 victory.
The Giants' fourth consecutive defeat dropped their record to 2-6 at midseason.
"I think they did a really good job delaying the blitz," Barkley said. "Forty (Davis), that's my guy, J.D., who's a heck of a player. I trained with him personally. I respect him. Once I went, once I turned to go, he blitzed. The end dropped on me. He got pressure on Daniel. Daniel went to go to his check down vault to me and it hit the ground.
"Then there's no excuse. That's not who I am. That's not the type of player I am. That's not the reason why I'm captain. I have to have better effort on that play. C.J., (running backs) coach (Craig) Johnson, stresses that all the time. When you're in swings and the ball goes down, just in case, cover it, cover it, cover it. I lacked effort there, in my opinion. I have to be better for my team."
Asked whether Barkley had "some hesitancy" on the play, coach Pat Shurmur deferred comment until he reviews the play. But he did absolve Jones, saying, "It wasn't his fault he got hit and the ball got put out of there."
Barkley was not the only player offering a mea culpa. Jones kept the Giants in the game by becoming the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to throw four touchdown passes in a road game. But when asked what disappointed him most about the game, he said, "Just not doing enough to win. Obviously, the turnover in the beginning hurt us and dug a hole for ourselves, for our team. Obviously, that's disappointing. We didn't do enough to win. I didn't do enough to help us win. In a lot of those critical times in the game, we still had a chance to win and we didn't make the play."
Shurmur concurred with the last part of that statement, saying, "We didn't make plays at times in critical junctures in the game, and you just never know when that's going to be in a game like this."
Several players said after the game they will hold a players-only meeting on Monday morning, and that will surely be one of many topics discussed.
"(We hope to) get to the root of the problem," safety Jabrill Peppers said. "From a man to another man, we're going to figure this thing out. There's still a lot of football left, we just need to get on the ball right now.
"We hold everybody accountable. From a man to a man, regardless of what the coaches - this has nothing to do with the coaches. It's us. We have a great game plan week in and week out. We just have to execute them. Myself included. That's just really all it comes down to, because we're tired of this feeling. We're better than what we're putting on tape. We're better than the results. But the results keep showing. So, it's on us, man. We have to take ownership and get this thing corrected."
"Everybody is accountable," linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree said. "But it's just about making sure we're doing the right things all the time."
Barkley said, "We lost how many in a row? Four in a row. Something had to be addressed, and what needs to be addressed needs to stay between the team."
The Giants have not owned a lead since their 24-3 victory against Washington on Sept. 29.
"It's been (four) weeks of the same thing," Pepper said. "Not coming out as hot and trying to claw and fight our way back in it. Not making enough plays, not executing enough. Then when we find ourselves in crunch time where now we have to claw and fight back instead of putting the pressure on the other team. That changes the whole dynamic of the game."
After Kennard's early touchdown, the game was closely contested. Neither team had much success running the ball, combining to average 2.8 yards a carry. The game became a showcase for quarterbacks Jones and Stafford, who combined to throw for 664 yards and seven touchdowns. Jenkins had the game's only interception.
Jones' 322 yards included scoring passes of 22 and 28 yards to fellow rookie Darius Slayton, two yards to tight end Evan Engram and four yards to Barkley for the game's final score with 1:19 remaining in the game.
"He battled throughout the game," Shurmur said. "All of the things that we see all of the time. He was in it all the way to the end to win it. He's a gritty, tough young man that has a bright future."
Stafford countered with 342 passing yards and touchdown tosses of 49 yards to Marvin Hall and nine and 41 yards to Kenny Golladay, the latter after a handoff to J.D. McKissic, who lateraled back to Stafford, who completed the play with a perfect strike to Hall.
After facing a two-touchdown deficit after one quarter for the second week in a row, the Giants rallied behind Slayton's two touchdowns and were poised to tie the game – until Aldrick Rosas' extra point try sailed wide left, leaving the Giants behind at 14-13 with 4:39 remaining in the half. Matt Prater's 52-yard field goal extended Detroit's halftime lead to four points.
In the third quarter, Golladay and Engram each scored, but the Giants' two-point attempt was unsuccessful, leaving them with a five-point deficit at 24-19. When Golladay got behind Antoine Bethea and caught the touchdown pass on the trick play, the Giants trailed, 31-19.
A fourth-down pass to Golden Tate fell incomplete with 6:25 left, but the Giants quickly got the ball back when Bethea recovered Golladay's fumble at the Lions' 38-yard line. The Giants also lost the ball on downs on that possession.
They forced a punt and scored on Barkley's first touchdown reception of the season, but Rosas' onside kick bounced out of bounds, ending their hope for a dramatic finish.
The Giants will try to end their current streak when they host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, Nov. 4.
"We've known that we can move the ball on people," Jones said. "We've known we can score points and do that. We didn't do enough of it. Like a lot of these games, we haven't done enough of it and made the big time plays in big moments. We know we're capable. We know we can do it, it's just a matter of doing it more consistently and in big moments in the game. As far as what we can take from it, just to realize that we have to do it and do it when it matters the most and do it consistently the whole game."